The People We Ought to Be

“How should we then live?” Francis Schaeffer asked the question back in the mid ’70s, the 1970’s. “What sort of people ought you to be?” Peter asked that similar question back in the late ’60s, the ’60s. I’m noodling on an answer Paul provides to the Thessalonians in the early ’20s, the 2020’s.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

(2Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV)

What kind of people ought we to be? How should we then live? With encouraged hearts constant in every good work and word.

Paul’s been talking about the end times. He’s confronted the fiction and cemented the facts in order to comfort the hearts of brothers and sisters who were “shaken in mind” and “alarmed” by teaching that “the day of the Lord” had already come (2:2). And then, after his short primer on the end times (2:3-12), he encourages them to put aside the distractions caused by speculations of what they don’t know and lean into the dynamics of the salvation they do know (2:13-15). Engage in sanctification, by the Spirit and by the word, he says. Stand firm, hold to the traditions you’ve been taught, “so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”, he says. With comforted heart, be grounded in the things of God, for the glory of God, in every good work and word.

So many voices in our media saturated world trying to tell us what is or what is to be. More than enough news, fake news, and “who knew” stuff to shake the mind, alarm the soul, and distract the believer from being about what they believe. At some point, we need to quiet the cacophony vying for our attention and focus on the salvation set before us. (Morning devotions are helpful for that.)

Our hearts are to be comforted. It’s the Greek word parakaleo, the same word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit in John 14:26. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter. The Helper. The One called to one’s side in order to admonish, to exhort, to console, to encourage, and to strengthen. What kind of people ought we to be? People who know the divine dynamic of the Spirit of God engaging with their spirit. Aware that they’ve not been left to navigate this life alone. People whose hearts are grounded, and constantly re-grounded in the comfort of the Comforter.

Our hearts are to be established. Stable, firm, constant, and fixed. Fixed on the good works God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Fixed on the good word God has given to guide us even as it reveals Him (Ps. 119:105). Amidst distraction, assaulted by the dissonance of this world with the world we were born again for, by God’s enabling we need to ground ourselves in what God wants us to know and what God wants us to do — whether that “to do” stuff is big stuff, or just the day-to-day stuff of seeking first the kingdom (Matt. 6:33) and living for the glory of God (1Cor. 10:31).

Not complicated. Also, not easy. But it’s at least part of how we should then live. It’s at the core of the sort of people we ought to be.

Only by His grace. Always for His glory.

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In Every Hour

His disciples must have been picking up that following Jesus wasn’t a matter of if things were going to get rough, but when. To follow Jesus would end up being out of sync with the world — and in their case, not only the secular world but the religious world as well.

I’m hovering over the first twelve verses of Luke 12 this morning and two “do not” commands catch my eye. One in particular has me thinking.

“I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him! . . . And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” ~ Jesus

(Luke 12:4-5, 11-12 ESV)

Do not fear. Do not be anxious.

To stand for Jesus would eventually mean standing before those who rejected Jesus. To be true to the living Word would, at some point, demand a spoken word before hostile authorities. To remain faithful to the Prince of Life might require the price of their own lives. “Do not fear,” says Jesus, “Do not be anxious.”

One is about not fearing the possibility of martyrdom. The other is about not fretting about what to do in the moment. It’s the second scenario I find myself chewing on.

Worrying about what to do when you’re on the hot seat. Getting tied up in knots about what you might say when those without ears to hear demand an answer. Don’t be anxious.

How come?

. . . for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

In that very hour–in real time, just when you need it, in the thick of it all–the One who is in you will teach you. The Spirit of truth will give you the truth to speak. The Spirit of revelation will take over and help you reveal the hope you have in Christ. He’s not going to hand you a manuscripted defense in advance, but in that very hour He will teach you what you ought to say. So, don’t be anxious.

Can we apply this outside of persecution? Is it too much to think, to expect, that the Spirit who has been promised to teach us in that very hour will actually engage with us in every hour where we’re not sure how we’re going to step up to whatever we’re being asked to step up to for Christ? I’m thinkin’ . . .

Isn’t it true, like really true, that whatever the situation or scenario we find ourselves in we truly are never alone? That, because we have been crucified with Christ, that it really is no longer we who live, but the Second Person of the Godhead, the Son of God, who lives in us (Gal. 2:20) — and that, through the Third Person of the Godhead, the Spirit of God?

So, says Jesus, do not be anxious. Because in that very hour, in every hour, you’ll know what to say for the One who lives in you and through you will know what to say. You’ll know what to do, because He knows what to do.

I believe that Lord. Help my unbelief.

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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A “Both/And” Thing

Ours is a pick and choose culture. Show us the menu and we’ll tell you what we want. Put before us our options and we’ll select those that best suit us. Give us an app and we’ll put in our order. But something I read in Luke this morning reminds me that’s not how the kingdom operates. While we might be naturally oriented to an “either/or” approach to life, Jesus reminded the religious of His day that the way of the kingdom of heaven is a “both/and” thing.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” ~ Jesus

(Luke 11:42 ESV)

The scribes and Pharisees can be a measuring stick against which we can feel good about ourselves, or they can be a mirror into which we look to be on guard against ourselves. These were the church-goers of the day. The faithful. The people who knew the book. The respected leaders in the religious community. In many ways they were us. So what happened?

Well, like I said, they were like us. People born with a sin nature which, apart from a supernatural transformation, have a propensity to walk in a way that seems right to a man (Prov 14:12) — even if that man is a religious man. And while we may have known such supernatural transformation through faith in Christ and the cross, we’re reminded again and again in the Scriptures that the old man is still around. That while we are born of the Spirit we are still in a battle against the flesh (Gal. 5:16-17). And the way of the flesh is pretty comfortable with a pick and choose culture. The old man will gravitate towards the “either/or” thing.

So, while the wealthy Pharisees of the day were meticulous in giving a tenth of all they reaped, even to most insignificant of things like their garden herbs, they were pretty lax when it came to giving attention to “the weightier matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23) like justice and the love of God. For them, it seems, it was an “either/or” thing. We do this part of following God really well, so we’ll be less concerned about that part.

But Jesus says, do both. In effect, the kingdom is a “both/and” way of living. We do what’s easy for us, we do what’s not so easy. We excel in our comfort zone, we seek to be faithful outside of it. We’ll attend to lesser matters while not neglecting the weightier matters.

Jesus says, live in the ways of the kingdom — in all the ways of the kingdom. Remain faithful in the small stuff, but don’t lose sight of the big stuff. Be people who consistently practice the faith, but don’t neglect justice. Be people who give to God cheerfully, but don’t be lax about interacting with a lost world lovingly. ‘Cause it’s a “both/and” thing.

But it’s not an “in our own power” thing. It’s not a “by my might” thing. It’s a Spirit thing. A Jesus living in me thing. A supernatural transformation thing.

A grace thing. A for God’s glory thing.


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A Heart That is Whole Toward Him

Wholly true but not wholly blameless. That’s what I’m picking up from what’s being laid down through King Asa’s story (2 Chronicles 14-16).

Faithful at first, foolish at the finish. Adoring God in the early years, angry with God in the latter. Started well, finished not so well. That’s kind of Asa’s legacy.

At the beginning of his reign, Asa is seeking the LORD, relying on the LORD, and cleaning house of detestable idols for the LORD. Three-and-a-half decades later, he doesn’t need the LORD, refuses to listen to LORD, won’t even turn to the LORD when it comes to fighting a life-threatening disease.

What happened? I don’t know for sure. It seems that perhaps the prosperity and peace that came from a heart that was “wholly true all his days” (2Ch. 15:7) lulled his heart into becoming a heart that eventually wholly depended on himself. While he was diligent in eliminating idol worship in Judah, he was less aware of the self-worship that was forming within his heart.

But as I chew on Asa’s story this morning, I’m not so sure that figuring out the “why it happened” is as important as knowing that it can happen. That starting well isn’t a guarantee of finishing well. That dealing with one type of sin isn’t necessarily protection against another type of sin. That confronting idolatry is different than combating self-sufficiency. That, in a sense, it’s not enough to have a heart which is “wholly true” but one that is wholly His.

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is [whole] toward Him.”

(2Chronicles 16:9a ESV)

Although the main text of the ESV says God’s looking for a “blameless heart”, I’m going with the rendering in the margin on this one. That God’s looking for a whole heart. Or, as the CSB puts it, hearts which “are completely His.”

Asa got a lot of stuff right during his life because he took a fierce stance against idolatry. But at the end of his reign, when he had enough resources to pay his way out of trouble rather than pray his way out of trouble (2Ch. 16:1-7), he refused the word of the LORD, got angry with God’s prophet, and “inflicted cruelties” on some of God’s people (2Ch. 16:10). While he had given God all of part of his heart in the beginning, at the end he wasn’t as committed to giving God all of his whole heart. But the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth looking for those whose heart is whole toward Him.

Scripture would indicate that the old man is always vying for control of the heart. I’m thinking the enemy knows that and will concede 9/10th’s to the Spirit if he can exploit the 1/10th retained by the flesh.

But thank God for the cross and the finished work of Christ. Sufficient enough to atone for our failures when our heart is less than whole toward Him. Able enough to release the grip of the flesh on every area of the heart. Powerful enough to bring redemption’s work to completion, so that what began well will finish well.

Only by His grace. Always for His glory.

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This morning was one of those mornings when two of my four readings connected. Not an obvious connection, but a little bit of chewing on the songwriter’s plea illuminated something of what the good doctor penned.

Psalm 142 is a cave psalm. David’s at the end of the road, literally, with no place else to go. He’s at the end of his rope with no one else to turn to. So he cries out to Jehovah. He pleads for mercy. He pours out his complaint. He informs the omniscient God of all his trouble.

He is overwhelmed with a sense of being absolutely alone: “There is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul” (v.4).

So where do you go when there’s nowhere else to go? Who do you turn to when there’s no one to take notice? Where do you look for a balm for the soul when there’s no one to care for your soul? Cue Sunday School 101’s most common answer to any question: God!

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

(Psalm 142:5 ESV)

No one to listen? The God of creation hears. No place to go? He who is omnipresent is there to provide refuge. Nothing able to feed the soul in the crisis? He can be your portion.

And so, the one who sits in a cave on earth prays to Him who is sits on a throne in heaven and simply articulates what he believes to be true. And then, after remembering who God is, He speaks what He wants God to do, making his petition crystal clear, “Attend to my cry . . . Deliver me from my persecutors . . . Bring me out of prison” (v.6-7a).

And as I hover over Psalm 142 (the last of four readings this morning), as I chew on verse five in particular, what I’ve just read in another reading (the second of four) comes to mind.

Luke’s record of the Lord’s prayer replays in my mind. And the question that pops into my head is, “How does David’s cry in verse five connect with the Lord’s model for prayer in Luke 11? Where is this statement of fact found in the framework Jesus gave His disciples?”

After pondering the riddle for a bit, after reading again Luke 11:9-13, the connection pops from the page. It’s found in one word. One profound word. One jaw-dropping, smile-evoking, soul-blessing word. It’s found in “Father.” As Matthew records it, “Our Father in heaven.”

Jesus told His disciples to start prayer, even prayers of desperation, with a statement about the Sovereign before rushing into petitions of panic. Remind yourself that the God of creation you address is your Father. That He is has united Himself to you with a bond of love and intimacy. So loving you that He has already given His one and only Son to meet your greatest need and, if He “did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). So desiring connection with you that He has also sealed you with His Spirit, the Spirit of adoption “by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Rom. 8:15).

So when David cries out, “You are my refuge . . . You are my portion” isn’t he in essence saying, “You are my Father”? I’m thinkin’ . . .

One word, four if you use the Matthew model, that I so often rush over in order to get to my ask. But one word, maybe four, which when I whisper it I should pause at and savor. A reminder that He is my refuge. That He is my portion. Because He is my Father.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Making God Known by Who We Are

She was impressed by his wealth. But she was blown away by his wisdom. And it would seem, at least to some measure, it showed her the Way.

This morning, I’m hovering over the meeting of two heads of states as recorded in 2 Chronicles 9 — the queen of Sheba and Solomon, the king of Israel.

Along with an impressive caravan, the queen has arrived in Israel on a fact finding mission. She had heard of Solomon’s fame and came to see for herself. Perhaps a little more accurately, she came to hear for herself. She wanted to know if the stories she had heard about Solomon’s words and wisdom were true. So, “she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions.” She told him all that was on her mind and peppered him with questions. And Solomon aced the test, “Solomon answered all her questions” (9:1-2).

Her assessment?

And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard.”

(2Chronicles 9:5-6 ESV)

But it’s what she goes on to say that has me thinking.

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on His throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, He has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”

(2Chronicles 9:8 ESV)

She looks past the wealth because she’s interested in the wisdom. But then her encounter with wisdom brings into clearer view the Source of wisdom. Solomon’s wondrous works and Solomon’s cognitive capacity serve to reveal something of Solomon’s great God.

Isn’t that how it should work even for us non-Solomon types? I’m thinkin’ . . .

Whatever material goods we possess, whatever mental proficiency we might demonstrate, at some point it should direct others to the King we represent. Those who encounter us in our world should be able to look over our shoulder, past our accomplishments and abilities, and see something of our Savior.

The mission of God’s people has always been to make God known by who we are.

That goes for all His people. True of ancient Israel, delivered from Egyptian slavery, true of His present people, the church, who have been delivered from sin’s bondage. True of the wealthy, true of the not so wealthy. True of brainiacs recognized for accomplishing great things, true of every day Joes (and Josephines) who, without a lot of attention, get ‘er done every day to earn a living and care for their families.

Regardless of earthly status, regardless of material wealth, regardless of how wise we are in the world’s eyes, would we desire that it be said by those who encounter us, “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you.”

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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More and More

Was Paul never satisfied? Give him an inch and did he want a mile? Hadn’t they done enough already? Apparently not.

Reading the first section of 1 Thessalonians 4 this morning and a twice repeated phrase catches my attention. Chewing on more and more.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, . . .

(1Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10 ESV) ESV)

Having received only three weeks of formal instruction before Paul was run out of town (Acts 17:1-10), the converts at Thessalonica had been quick studies. And obedient ones. The testimony of Paul and others was that they were walking as they “ought to walk.” They had become imitators of Paul and of the Lord Jesus (1:6). In fact, they had become examples of how to do it right “to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1:7).

That they had turned to God from idols (1:9) wasn’t just a slogan on a t-shirt, it was evident by how they went about living their lives and loving one another. The word they heard from Paul they had internalized as a word from God, and it was that word which was “at work in you believers” (2:13). Paul thanked God for their “work of faith”, their “labor of love”, and their “steadfastness of hope” (1:2). They were living for God. They were loving for God. They were longing for God. Yes! Sounding a lot like a 4.0 GPA (God Pursuing Average) to me.

Yet Paul twice exhorts them, “Do so more and more.”

Come on! Really?!?

But isn’t that the nature of sanctification? Shouldn’t it be the nature of sanctification? If being sanctified is being brought in line practically with who we are positionally in Christ — being holy as Christ is holy for God is holy — then shouldn’t there always be more and more? I’m thinkin’ . . .

If God predestined us to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29), then until we fully bear the likeness of His Son, shouldn’t we see ourselves increasingly transformed into the likeness of His Son? If God said the work He begun in us won’t be completed until “the day of Jesus” (Php. 1:6), then I’m thinking that if there isn’t more and more to always be leaning into, then we’re tapping out too early. Or we’re stalling out too quickly. Or we’re patting ourselves on the back and giving ourselves a shout out too arrogantly.

Isn’t it our experience that the more we grow in the likeness of Christ the more aware we are of how far we really are from being like Christ? That the more we grow in holiness the more we know we need to do so more and more?

And who is sufficient for such things? We are. In Christ. Through the indwelling power of the Spirit. By the will of God.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification . . .

(1Thessalonians 4:3a ESV)

His abounding and over-flowing grace sufficient for the more and more.

So that He alone might receive all the glory, more and more.

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So Not Intuitive (A 2012 Rerun)

This morning I’m chewing on what I didn’t chew on. A bit in wonder at what I failed to pause in awe over. Thankful that I went back randomly to see what I was thinking on this day in my reading plan 10 years ago and a bit embarrassed of how quickly I passed over it this morning. “Who do you say that I am?” It’s the million-dollar question. And they nailed it. He was the Christ, the promised Messiah. But then, He tells them He will be a crucified Christ. How would that have landed the first time they heard it? How should that land this morning as I read it for the umpteenth time? Here’s how I processed it back in 2012.

I think it must have separated their heads from their shoulders . . . I can see them doing the classic double-take snap of the head as they exclaim, “What?!?” Their brows are furled . . . they are scratching their heads . . . it just does not compute. They had been following Him for about two years . . . during that time they had left everything . . . and they had seen Him do amazing things . . . and they couldn’t help but be wondering, “What sort of man is this?” And just when they thought they were starting to get it . . . just when they were starting to see the picture that all the pieces, when put together, was forming . . . then He drops the bombshell . . .

Then He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

(Luke 9:20-22 ESV)

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this wondrous declaration by Peter . . . and pair it with, what must have been, this mind-blowing revelation by Jesus. Once the disciples had started to get who Jesus was, Jesus then began to teach them that He must suffer and die and rise again. Personally, I don’t think they heard the “rise again” part . . . especially the first time that Jesus told them.

Think about it . . . the lights were finally starting to go on. This man they had been following was anything but “just a man” . . . He was the Christ of God . . . the Anointed . . . the Messiah . . . the Son of God. That was the only explanation for how He could teach with such authority . . . the only conclusion as to how He could know all that He knew about those around Him . . . the only rationale as to where the power came from which allowed Him to perform such miracles. It had to be Him . . . the promised One . . . the heir to David’s throne . . . the hope of Israel. Can you imagine the joy that came over them the very first time they articulated that Jesus must be the Christ. Horns start blaring . . . confetti and streamers start falling . . . the crowd of angels in unseen heavenly balconies are going nuts with applause and cheering, “Yes!!! They’re getting it!!! Did you hear them? . . . they’re starting to see it . . . they’re beginning to believe it . . . they said it . . . He is the Christ of God!”

And then . . . smack down! . . . dowse the flame with water . . . snatch away the candy from the baby . . . the Son of Man must suffer . . . be rejected . . . be killed . . . and again, I don’t think they even heard the rise again part.

There’s no way they could have made sense of it. How could the Promise they had been waiting centuries for be rejected? How could the Son of God suffer at the hands of men? How could Messiah die?

And I’m sitting here . . . on the other side of the cross . . . with the Spirit that raised Him from the dead residing within me, illuminating afresh to me this ancient conversation . . . and I’m in wonder as well. How, apart from the Sovereign purposes of grace, does this make any sense at all?

This is so not intuitive . . .

But behold, this is the love of God! . . . this is the good news! . . . this is my salvation!

That Jesus, the Christ of God, would come first as the Lamb of God . . . rejected . . . suffering at the hands of men . . . crucified by those He came to save . . . in order to atone for the sin of all men and women . . . in order to provide a path of reconciliation with God for all who would believe . . . in order to redeem that which was lost.

O, what a Savior!

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None Like Him, None Like Us

Something in David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 17 gives me a “warm fuzzy” this morning. Touches my heart. Puts a smile on my face. Thanksgiving on my tongue. A song on my lips.

David, wants to build a permanent house for the God who has, “moved with all Israel”, going from “tent to tent and from dwelling and dwelling” (17:5-6a) since they left Egypt. But the Lord says, in effect, No thanks — I’ll ask your son to do it. Instead, says the God of surprises and 360’s, “The LORD will build you a house”. Your throne shall be a forever throne, and that through a son whose reign shall be established forever (17:11-14). A promise which pointed to Solomon, but will ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus, the promised Messiah, the son of David, the Son of God.

As David noodles on the revelation, he sits before the LORD and asks, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” (17:16). As he processes, he prays. As he synthesizes, he supplicates. As he is filled with wonder, he worships.

“There is none like You, O LORD, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be His people, making for Yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before Your people whom You redeemed from Egypt? And You made Your people Israel to be Your people forever, and You, O LORD, became their God.”

(1Chronicles 17:20-22 ESV)

Who is like Your people? That’s what exploded on my meditation palette this morning.

There is none like our God. Given. No debate among those who have been translated from darkness into light. No doubt for those who have come to know the Father through the Son by the Spirit. There is no God besides You, our God.

But there is also none like us. Yet for different reasons.

God is a being like no other because He is before any other. He defies comparison for He created all things we might compare Him to. He defies comprehension, for He is the source of all things. He is above all others for He is holy, holy, holy — separated in glorious unimaginability, unlike all others.

But God’s people are unlike any other people not because of who we are, but because of what we are — redeemed! Redeemed from bondage and slavery. Redeemed through divine intervention and the mighty hand of God. Redeemed to be His people. Redeemed to show He is a God of great and awesome things. Unlike any other people, because He has chosen us to be His people, and to be His people forever.

Who is like Your people? No people!

Are they perfect? Nope, not in themselves. Oh, but they are holy and righteous, soon to be presented without spot or blemish in Christ. How come? Because they have been redeemed! Bought with a price. Purchased by the blood.

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I think of my blessed Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long;
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.

I know I shall see in His beauty
The King in whose law I delight,
Who lovingly guardeth my footsteps,
And giveth me songs in the night.

Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed
His child, and forever, I am.

~ Fanny Crosby, 1882

There is none like our God. And there is none like us.

Trophies of God’s amazing and abundant grace. On display for all to see–on earth and in heaven–so that ” the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known” (Eph. 3:10) for His glory.

Doesn’t that give you a “warm fuzzy?” Doesn’t that put a smile on your face and thanksgiving on your tongue? Doesn’t that put a song on your lips? I’m thinkin’ . . .

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Forgiveness and Fear

If we were playing a game of word association, I’m not sure they’d be the two words most quickly, or even most likely to be put together. No one would be surprised if you heard “black” in response to “white.” Or, “sun” connected to “moon.” Or, “shirt” as what comes to mind immediately for “pants.” Or, “southern gospel” as the no-brainer for “heaven’s music.” But “forgiveness” and “fear”? Hmm . . .

If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.

(Psalm 130:3-4 ESV)

Forgiven to fear. Chew on that for a bit.

Delivered for dread. Redeemed for reverence. Sin atoned so that the soul would be held in awe.

The songwriter’s assessment of the penalty of sin is accurate. If the holy God of heaven should keep a record of our wrongdoings, we’re done. None could stand before Him.

But God hasn’t logged our sins with indelible ink. Through the cross, He has made a way to redeem us from all iniquities (v.8), writing over the record of our wrongs “Paid in Full” with the blood of His own Son. And thus, we do stand. Declared holy, robed in the righteousness of Christ, because the God of “plentiful redemption” (v.7) has removed our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12), we stand before Him in the splendor of His holiness.

And in that place, face to face with God by faith through the fullness of His forgiveness, there should be a fear. A divine dread. A holy reverence. Awestruck wonder. Jaw-dropping astonishment. Face to the ground worship.

Through His forgiveness we have been reconciled. Once separated we are now brought near. And as we draw near to the I AM in all His glory and majesty, like Isaiah, we find ourselves crying out, “I am undone!” (Isa. 6:5 KJV). Like John on Patmos, who encountered the One who walks among the churches, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17).

Forgiveness and fear. Shouldn’t they go together like “baseball” and “bat”?

I’m thinkin . . .

Because of grace. For His glory.

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